I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.
In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful
“Say: Verily, my Salât (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allâh, the Lord of the ‘Alamîn” (6:162)
When I was a sophomore in high school, all I wanted was to work at a part-time job. I envied my classmates who worked part-time jobs, and were able to use that money to live the kind of life they wanted, spending when and how they felt fit. At that time I relied on my parents’ money to purchase items of necessity or was forced to beg them for a desired purchase. But what baffled me was how most of those working classmates complained to each other of having to go to work later in the evening, and showed annoyance at their jobs when they were invited to parties and they wouldn’t be able to make it because of their shift timings. I kept thinking, “But, at least you have a job! You get to make money and buy what ever you want whenever you want.” I thought that those classmates were crazy for ever complaining about working, because in my eyes, it was as if they were complaining about money flowing into their lives. I mean, who wouldn’t want money flowing into their lives?
Then I got my own experiences to enjoy and learn from. A couple of months after consistently applying for jobs and getting no calls or rejected at interviews, I finally landed my first job at a Baskin Robbins ice cream store. I was thrilled. It was only a three-minute walk from my house, the hours were flexible, the pay would steadily go up with my performance, I got a free scoop of any flavour of ice cream at the end of each shift, and best of all, I got paid! I was set. I would be forever happy right? Wrong! Now it’s not that I wasn’t happy, but as time went on, I started to find faults with my job. I got annoyed when my manager told me to wipe counters and wash utensils when I wasn’t serving customers. I got irritated when my manager called my home when I wasn’t scheduled to work to ask if I could fill in for someone or work because there were more customers than expected. I felt frustrated with the half hour break I got in between my longer shifts and felt like it was inhumane to not have a break during my short shifts. And of course, I got really angry when I couldn’t accept a friend’s invitation for a weekend outing or a dinner event that fell on the same date and time as my shift at the store. Often I would get home with aching feet, having stood up for so many hours, and I had days or nights when I felt exhausted.
I found escape through a summer job opportunity at a pharmaceutical corporation with more than double the Baskin Robbins pay. This time I worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. But of course I found several flaws with this job as well. They included the following: the work is mind numbing as I stand all day packaging medications with invoices, there is nobody to be friends with, I feel too tired when I get home, and I feel like my work has taken over my life.
When I started school again, my summer contract ended but I was happy for about three months to live off what I had made during the summer. When those funds dried up, I couldn’t imagine living without my own income, so I went back to Baskin Robbins, hoping my manager would re-hire me. My manager hired me back graciously, but of course soon after settling into my job I was back to complaining about one thing or another, despite the fact that this time, I often got scheduled with good friends of mine. The money was never enough, and I was happy to leave the job a little bit before my wedding. I breathed a sigh of relief, happy to not have to go work, but soon after married life became like a regular existence, I missed working, even though I was continuing my studies.
I missed work life, and so began applying at retail and grocery stores around my house. But for two whole years, I couldn’t manage to get anything. Then finally, I got accepted at a grocery store as a cashier. I was grateful for finally getting something. What made this job more exciting was that I had always wanted to experience scanning grocery items at a grocery store. But of course, eventually I despised this job as well. Although most customers were either kind or indifferent, I began dreading my shifts due to my fear of dealing with the difficult and impatient customers. I was thrilled when I got accepted as a preschool teacher at the municipal recreation centres, as it was partially to prepare my resume for teacher’s college applications coming up. But of course this time I got overly stressed because of dealing with small children by myself. I prayed before each class for all the kids to be good and that nobody needed a bathroom break in the hour and half I spent with them. Since it was a summer opportunity, I was grateful to end it by September, which was when I returned to my undergrad studies. This cycle continued for another year or so with different jobs at different times.
Why am I sharing this, you ask? I realized after so many jobs and several years, the inconvenient and painful truth about life: whether it’s our jobs, careers, relationships, or any other venture, in order to achieve the level of happiness we desire, we must remember that everything requires SACRIFICE. It took me so many years, and so many life experiences to finally understand and accept that the foundation of all happiness and stability in life is directly proportional to how willing I am to sacrifice certain aspects of my life in order to successfully fulfill and retain bigger goals in life. It took me so much unnecessary stress, annoyance, anger, and restlessness to finally realize that nothing is for free. We must be willing to pay the price for all the good things we desire in life. And when I refused to pay the price for all the things I wanted in life, I faced not just unhappiness and immense stress, but also instability and lack of focus. I kept searching for that one time in life when I would be in perfect harmony, but I was deluded because I didn’t understand that life is constantly changing, and we are not meant to sit and enjoy things for too long.
God designed this existence so that we are constantly facing new challenges in order to help us grow in wisdom and humility. True happiness is definitely achievable if we shift our definition of true happiness from: when everything and everyone is in harmony with my wishes and goals, to when: I know and accept that I will have to give up some very important desires of mine in order to achieve my biggest life goals, all while respecting the rights of others. The trick is to understand that EVERYONE has to sacrifice some of their wishes for others, and that means that I am not alone when it comes to making sacrifices. There are others who made and continue to make sacrifices in order to keep me happy and satisfied. This relates to all realms of life: relationships, careers, jobs, finances, health, family, children. One must be careful not to overlook the sacrifices others make for us.
Let’s remember the Pact of Hudaybia, when the Prophet pbuh agreed to give up many of his desires for the ummah in order to secure some peace and stability for the struggling community. There were many humiliating clauses in the pact, and yet he willingly signed it because he gained something much more profound: peace and stability for everyone around him. The Prophet pbuh understood that he would need to give up some things to get some things, and history shows that his decision to embrace this fact of life paid off in the short and long run.
I end this post with a fitting song excerpt:
We want it all, with no sacrifice
And now we’re all to blame
We’ve gone too far
From pride to shame
We’re hopelessly blissful and blind
When all we need
Is something true
Don’t we all?
We will fall
(song: we’re all to blame)